of the local hospital is an interesting place. I had to visit my friend there yesterday. She is not a "sectioned" or "voluntary" patient. She was placed there because the only available bed with the necessary facilities was there.
They were just about to take her off to an unexpected appointment at the eye clinic - yet another problem she is facing.
"She won't be long. Can you wait?"
Yes, I would wait.
There is a little "garden" area. It is not a very interesting place - almost bare but there are a few chairs, some more of the rosemary bushes which you find all over the hospital and some pebble dash type paving - but no pebbles of course. Like the rest of the surroundings it is not in the least what I would provide for elderly people who are, by and large, there because they are depressed or have severe anxiety problems. (The rest of the place seems to be painted a particularly nasty shade of yellow and there are no pictures on the walls.)
There was nobody there to begin with then a very elderly woman came out and sat near me. She was joined by a younger man. It was soon obvious he was her son. He brought out cups of tea for both of them and they talked quietly. She seemed sane enough and indeed it seems the problem was panic over the new diet she needed to follow after surgery. She told me this quite calmly after inquiring about my knitting.
"So silly of me. I worried everyone."
I told her it was not at all silly. Her son agreed. We talked about the knitting I was doing while waiting. The conversation ceased when the dietician came to talk to them. She is going home tomorrow. A little bit of help in the community and she is going back to a normal, busy life.
Someone else wandered up and touched the knitting. "Pretty". I agreed. "What is it?"
I told her. She nodded and wandered off. A little later I saw her come back with some washing she had obviously done. She gave me a cheerful smile.
There was a woman who came out talking nonsense to herself and then "jogged" backwards and forwards until someone came and took her gently back inside with the words, "The doctor is here to see you."
The tea lady came along the corridor. She can see out into the "garden" and she stopped. Did I want anything?
"That's kind of you but I'm just visiting." I told her.
"I can see that but you can have a cuppa if you like."
I accepted tea - which tasted of disinfectant and I quietly poured it into the garden after she was out of sight. The two biscuits I have given to the birds. But, I really did appreciate the gesture.
And still my friend had not returned. I was aware that school traffic would start to get heavy soon.
I was about to leave when one of the staff said,
"Hello, I know you from the shopping centre. Are you E's sister?"
"No, a friend of forty years."
"Well, she shouldn't be much longer. You will wait?"
I sensed she felt my friend needs visitors. I waited a little longer and then wrote my friend a note. I had to leave. It was not her fault and she will know I know that. I would phone her but although she is not considered a psychiatric patient she has to abide by the ward rules. No phone calls, no mobile phone.
I left after being buzzed out of the secure door. I chatted to a member of staff on the way up the long corridor. She agreed the rule about phones was too rigidly applied. All over the rest of the hospital people use them freely unless they are likely to interfere with equipment. There is even bedside internet access in some places. Perhaps there are good reasons for this lack of access in this unit but I find it hard to fathom the need to apply it to everyone.
Her sister phoned me later. She had arrived just after I left - and still had to wait. The news is not good. There is an ulcer in one eye.
I can't get there today. I will try to get there tomorrow.
And I wonder about this place which is supposed to be helping people with psychiatric problems. I don't know anything about psychiatric care so perhaps I am just wrong but I would have thought the surroundings could be more interesting even if they need to be quiet and calm. Would a quiet landscape on the wall be that disturbing? Is that dirty yellow the right colour?
I suppose other people know about these things but I found the surroundings much more depressing than the patients. All but one of them seemed quite sane to me - and the one who wasn't seemed happy. She had been singing to herself as she "jogged". What is madness?